If you have a family member or other loved one who is struggling with a drug problem, you’ve probably wondered whether you should bring up the topic of drug addiction treatment. Drug addiction is an emotionally charged topic and talking about it can – and probably will – be uncomfortable for both you and your loved one. But as intimidating as broaching the topic might be, ignoring your loved one’s need for drug addiction treatment won’t make the problem go away. Your close relationship places you in a difficult but important position – that of someone your loved one trusts, cares for and just may listen to.
Your knowledge of your loved one’s personality, life situation and history will inform how you choose to approach them about seeking drug addiction treatment. Every addict is unique and there is no one approach that will work for every person or every situation. However, there are a few things you can keep in mind to make the entire process easier on yourself and your loved one:
Make your needs a priority. You may not be the one who needs drug addiction treatment, but that doesn’t make your needs less important. If you’ve ever been on an airplane ride, you know that the emergency instructions advise you to put your own oxygen mask in place before assisting others – the same goes for helping a loved one cope with addiction. You will be better able to help if you take care of yourself first. A few tips:
- Set limits and let your loved one know what they are. Drug addiction has many negative consequences, and it is not your job to come to the rescue every time something bad happens.
- Join a support group or seek counseling to help you better understand the dynamics of drug addiction.
- Take some time away from the situation to do something fun with other friends or family members; keep up with outside interests that don’t have to do with drug abuse or addiction.
- Take steps to protect yourself physically and financially; don’t allow yourself to be put in dangerous situations.
- Acknowledge and accept that you can’t control your loved one’s actions.
- Remember that it’s OK to feel angry at your loved one, and it doesn’t mean you care about them any less.
You have a right to speak up. The effects of drug and alcohol abuse extend far beyond the addict, influencing the lives of everyone they care about. While a drug addict may insist that their decisions are their own business, how those decisions affect you is absolutely your business. You have a right – maybe even an obligation – to speak up when someone you love is making bad decisions. Getting drug addiction treatment before disaster strikes is better than waiting for your loved one to hit rock bottom.
Do your homework. Before you approach someone about getting drug addiction treatment, it’s best to learn more about the nature of addiction. Most professionals today agree that addiction is best understood as a disease and that it affects the way the brain functions, leading to poor decision-making skills, lack of control and physical cravings for the addictive substance. The more you understand about addiction, the more prepared you will be to talk with your loved one about drug addiction treatment.
Ask for help. Consider enlisting the help of other family members or friends, or consult with a professional interventionist for tips. Even if you choose to speak to your loved one alone, you don’t have to prepare alone.
Share your concern. When you’re ready to talk to your loved one about drug addiction treatment, approach them from a position of concern and support. Many people who are addicted to drugs will become defensive when the topic of drug addiction treatment is brought up, and they will be more receptive if you talk to them in a caring way, rather than acting critical or assigning blame.
Be specific about your feelings. Be honest and direct in what you say. Talk about how your loved one’s actions make you feel by referring to specific incidents and avoid making general statements like ‘You always’ or ‘You never,’ which sound like personal criticism. Try using ‘I’ statements, such as ‘I worry when you don’t come home at night.’ Realizing they have hurt people they care about can be big motivating factor for many drug addicts to seek treatment.
Have a drug addiction treatment plan in place. Before you approach your loved one, you should have several options ready for them in case they choose to seek treatment. Agreeing to enter a treatment program is a huge step forward for a drug addict, and you don’t want to lose the momentum of the moment. Be ready to take them straight to a rehab center or put them in touch with an addiction counselor after you talk.
Although you may be afraid that approaching your family member or friend about drug addiction treatment will harm your relationship, it will almost certainly do less damage than continued drug abuse. A relationship with a drug addict often provokes feelings of anger, resentment and betrayal. You may feel as though you’re shouldering all the responsibility in the relationship, and begin to lose trust and confidence in your loved one. These feelings are all natural, but if left unaddressed they can damage a relationship beyond repair.
Many people are surprised to discover that talking with their loved one about a substance abuse problem actually strengthens their relationship. Drug addicts often know they need help and are relieved to have someone to talk to about their problem. In fact, 69% of recovering people polled in a national survey reported that they ended up seeking help because someone who cared about them had the courage to approach them honestly about the seriousness of their drug use; 41% said that if family or friends had voiced concern they would have gotten help even sooner.
The precise words you say when you talk with a loved one about drug addiction treatment are less important than showing them that you care and you want to help. If you keep the above principles in mind, you will be well-prepared when you approach your loved one.